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Consultative Committee discusses Omicron, ongoing measures remain in force

Today, the Consultative Committee has discussed the epidemiological situation. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant is causing a sharp rise in the number of infections. It has therefore been decided to maintain the current measures. At the same time, the Consultative Committee has also discussed the medium-term strategy in which predictability and future outlook are front and centre.

Based on the latest scientific data, it seems that the Omicron variant is three to four times more contagious, but may be less virulent. As a result, there has been a rapid increase in the number of infections (+79% in the last week) and an increase in hospital admissions (+20%). Intensive care unit occupancy continues to decline for the time being, however, markedly less so than in the previous week.

The Consultative Committee has established that, in the current circumstances, it is advisable to keep the ongoing measures in place.

Ongoing measures remain in force

1.  Teleworking

Teleworking remains compulsory, at least four days a week. A maximum of one return day to the office per week, with a maximum of 20% of staff present in business units at any one time.

Team-building sessions and other in-person activities, both indoors and out, remain prohibited.

2. Gatherings, activities and events 

The current restrictions or prohibition of certain gatherings, activities and events, for instance in the hospitality, nightlife or sports and cultural sectors, remain in place. 

3.  Education

The Consultative Committee has confirmed that the planned reopening of educational establishments from 10 January will be going ahead. This means full-time in-person education again for pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, and part-time arts education. The following preventive measures must be observed:

  • effective ventilation at all times;
  • mandatory face masks from the age of six;
  • testing and quarantine rules must be respected. Year groups must go into quarantine as from 4 infections (children with symptoms);
  • meetings must continue to be held virtually;
  • mixing of year groups in communal indoor areas (study areas, canteen, etc.) must be avoided as much as possible;
  • day excursions are allowed in accordance with the applicable rules;
  • out-of-school activities with an overnight stay remain prohibited.

Parents are being urged to test their children as often as possible.

As far as higher education is concerned, the Consultative Committee has invited the Ministers of Education to examine, in cooperation with the education sector, which (additional) preventive measures are needed in order for higher education to take place as from 10 January.

Testing and quarantine rules 

The Consultative Committee has taken note of the decision of the Health Ministers who, on the basis of the latest scientific information on the Omicron variant, have changed the testing and quarantine policy with effect from 10 January. 

In this new testing and quarantine policy, self-testing has become increasingly important. Self-tests are available in supermarkets and pharmacies. For people who benefit from an increased allowance, self-tests are available in pharmacies for €1 per test (a maximum of 4 self-tests per person every 14 days).

Medium-term strategy and coronavirus barometer

The Consultative Committee has also taken time to consider the preparatory work of the COVID-19 Commissariat with regard to a medium-term strategy and the draft coronavirus barometer. The COVID-19 Commissariat has been asked to refine and elaborate the barometer.